My Life in Boxes: The Final Decluttering Challenge


A funny thing happened when I started toying with the idea of moving back to Victoria: I packed up my entire condo before even giving notice. One day, I told Sarah I was thinking about moving; a few days later, she came over and found almost everything in boxes in my dining room. “Whoa, so you’re really going!?” she asked. And for a few weeks, my answer was still, “I don’t know”. But everything other than my clothes, kitchen stuff, basic toiletries, and electronics remained in those boxes for June and July, before I finally decided to put them in a truck and bring them over to Victoria.

I’ve been here for almost a month now, and another funny thing has happened in that time: I haven’t unpacked those boxes. Other than my clothes, kitchen stuff, basic toiletries and electronics, everything is still packed… and I haven’t missed any of it.

Without meaning to, I’m essentially doing the same thing Ryan did when he decided to embrace minimalism. First, he packed 100% of his belongings in boxes. Then, over a period of three weeks, he pulled out everything he needed – and it ended up being just 20% of what he owned. When the three weeks were up, he sold and donated the other 80% of his belongings and has been a minimalist ever since. I’ve already gotten rid of 70% of my belongings, and I honestly thought I couldn’t get rid of anything more… but I can’t remember what’s in half of those boxes.

So, I think it’s time for one final decluttering challenge – and I would love for you to join me!

20 Days to Downsize

When I did my first massive declutter/purge last summer, I had originally set out to do it over the course of two months. I soon realized it would be better to tackle it all as quickly as possible, though, and got rid of the first 43% of my belongings in less than a month.

Between now and August 31st, I want to go through those boxes and see if there’s anything more I can get rid of. I’m not going to set any goals, such as trying to get rid of 50% of the contents, or anything like that… I just want to see/touch every single item in those boxes and try to figure out why I’m holding onto it all. I know there are things like the blanket I use when I nap on my couch, which I just haven’t pulled out yet, as well as some books and my high school yearbooks – and I’ll be keeping all of that – but what else is in there!? It’s time to open every box and find out.

I have 20 days to do this one final declutter. Since there are only 8 small boxes to go through, it shouldn’t take long… maybe only an afternoon or two, including the time it’ll take to donate what I decide to get rid of. (Also, at 1.5 cubic feet per box, the majority of my belongings only take up 12 cubic feet; that’s pretty crazy to think about, when you consider that the average size of a home is 2,600 square feet.) I’ll take some pictures along the way and fill you in on the process, when it’s all said and done – but I’d love to hear about/see some of you declutter during this time, as well!

If you’ve been thinking about decluttering, I’m challenging you to tackle one area of your home in the next 20 days. The idea can seem overwhelming – paralyzing, even – so start small. Pick one closet or one room… heck, you could even declutter one drawer. Just start somewhere. And I’d love if you shared your progress by tagging me in a post on Twitter or Instagram!

I know I don’t technically need to get rid of this stuff… but how great would it be to own nothing more than the things you use on a monthly basis? I thought I had already downsized to that, but we’ll see what I find in the next 20 days.

Are you up for the challenge? What do you want to tackle first?

My New Bedroom
Mermaid Cove and my vintage glass piggy bank made it to Victoria :)
  • I love your condo! Mr. Crackin’ has been on a minimalist kick as well. We stayed in a 750 sq. ft. suite at the Delano in Vegas and I swear that if took out the extra large half bath and added a kitchen that would be my perfect space! Sans kids of course! Now we live in a ridiculous 3,300 sq. ft. monstrosity because we bought too much house! It’s not packed but we definitely have too much stuff.

    • That’s a big house, for sure! Where do you think most of your “stuff” lives in it? Out in the open, in closets or hidden away in boxes?

  • Great post I am doing a decluttering into my wardrobe and into my books collection, I have bags full of books to donate and try to sell on thrifty shop…for basic cosmetics I’m good and also for electronics…but decluttering keep my mind to stay focused…However I think you’ve done a very good job from the begininning of your shopping ban and decluttering process!!!

    • Thanks, Giulia! For the books, if it’s possible, I’d suggest donating lots of them to your local library. It can take a LOT of effort to sell books, and that time is probably worth more than the $2-5 you might get for some of them. I’m all for earning extra money, of course, but just make sure you compare how much time it takes you to sell to how much money you’re really making. :)

      • It can be hard to sell books but sometimes you can find a store that sells secondhand books that will give you credit for the books you bring in. I did this (too many) years ago when I needed to downsize and save money prior to an overseas sabbatical. I found a bookstore on a walking route between my office and home and would stop by every week or so with 4-5 books at a time. I’d usually get $0.25-.50 credit per book. I limited myself to buying used books to save money, and I usually was able to find something to read at that store – and mostly I just spent the credits I received. This process took time, but it was also painless because I didn’t have to go out of my way.

        This can work pretty well if you collect books in a certain niche (I like mystery novels) and can find a used bookstore that sells books in that niche.

  • I’m currently only wearing about 20% of the clothing I own. Most of my clothes don’t fit, but I’ve barely purchased anything new for the past two years. I’d love to get rid of most of it, lose some weight, and maybe purchase a few outfits I’ll wear for the next 5 years or so. So, my closet! That’s what I’d like to attack.

    • DITTO. Ok, I’m also going to go through my clothes again, because I seriously only wear 60-70% of the few items I still own. Boxes + clothes. Let’s do this!

  • I’ve been going through the same thing since we’re moving soon. In the past I’ve prided myself for being able to carry my life around in 2 suitcases. Not so much this time. There’s a lot of stuff I’m giving away that I bought for 1-time-use or no longer resonate with me. But there’s still a lot I’m dragging with me. Mostly books, but a couple other items too. Hoping to get it down to as little as possible since I feel it’ll help me start fresh in the new space.

    • Yes, that’s what I want here too… to start fresh and really just love everything that’s in my home. Don’t let anything drag you down, Taylor. :)

  • It’s pretty amazing how little stuff one needs on a regular basis. This experiment is proof positive of that. When you started decluttering, do you think your brain would have accepted keeping only what you have now? Or is it better to be gradual for constant re-evaluation?

    I have two areas I want to tackle in this challenge. Both came from the same point of accumulation. My sister gave me two boxes of make up, cleaning and household products. Right now, the contents are taking over my bathroom and dining room. These things need to find a home! ASAP.

    • I don’t have a great answer to that… I would say, it’s important to do one HUGE declutter first (like when I got rid of 43% of my stuff first). But when you’re done, you should always be looking at your space and just double-checking that you still like everything you have. Things change as times goes on, so it’s not really surprising that my goals have changed and, therefore, I’ve been able to let go of more stuff… you know? So: do 1 big declutter, then anytime you see stuff you could get rid of, bag it up!
      And yes, those things need to find a home – even if they don’t end up in yours! ;)

  • I did a ton of decluttering a couple months ago, threw out 5 bags of trash and donated 3 carloads of stuff to local charities throughout town. It made a huge difference on our tiny two-bedroom apartment. But the one thing I’ve stalled on is a whole bunch of paperwork taking over the top shelf in our closet. The paperwork once belonged to my dad – he passed away a couple years ago and it’s been really tough to sort through it. So I’m trying to do just 15 minutes a day for now.

    • Kimberly, I do genealogy (am retired family counsellor/nurse), and I can say tht those papers may hold some treasure for the future!
      I’d suggest thinking what a grandchild would like to know about your dad, what papers would help make your dad a person to them, not just a name with birth/marriage/death dates. Most people simply dump it all without even looking at it, and then much later wished they’d kept some of the discarded items. My sister and I went through a bottle of wine and a box of kleenex when we dug through our parents’ “stuff”.
      Best wishes with this issue.

    • I like the 15-minutes/day idea, Kimberly. I wonder if you’ll get to a point with it where you just want to tackle the last stack all at once, no matter how many hours it takes. Anyway, just do what you can now… and don’t be scared to scan some things, if you just want to keep the visual vs. the actual paper. Good luck :)

  • Part of me still can’t believe you’re gone! It happened both fast and inevitably, though. And the pace and lifestyle in Victoria seems much more in line with your values – I can imagine how zen it must feel to be able to get from point A to point B without hitting a wall of traffic, not to mention the hikes your able to do without driving for forever to get there.

    I’m taking your challenge. I’m starting with my office. I’m going to try to get Jason on board too. He does like to keep “stuff” but I think I can convince him.

    • Just offer him a prize… like you’ll promise to laugh at all of his dad jokes for a month! <3

  • We did a huge decluttering in the spring and it was amazing how much we could get rid of and we live in a 1 bedroom apartment! Bags of garbage, clothing to donate, books to give away, furniture, the list goes on and on…

    We might be moving soon so that’ll cause us to get rid of even more. It can be so freeing!

    • Wow, that’s awesome, Elizabeth! It is freeing – in more ways than one. Good luck with your next move :)

  • Great idea – how neat to reduce all of the stuff we drag around! I don’t see myself moving in the next 10 years, so it is easy to just close the closet doors and not go to the basement and ignore the “stuff” I rarely use.

    I’m going to tackle my spare bedroom closet – it needs a major intervention!

    • Spare bedroom closets always do, it seems! It’s interesting, since no one technically lives in that room… shouldn’t the closet be empty? ;)

  • We’re looking at buying a house in the next year or so, so I’m already groaning at the idea of packing up all our stuff. So my goal is to start with decluttering the closet in the guest bedroom. My fiance doesn’t think the idea of decluttering is very appealing, so baby steps here.. :)

  • I accept your challenge!! Even after our first round of our garage sale & donations for our move, staring at our full U-haul after it was opened for our new place just made my heart sink. Many of these items we only use potentially on a yearly basis could go to a loving home where they could be in a phase of life where they use such items all the time. My fiance’s phrase through this whole process has been “We don’t need stuff!” Which is incredibly true. After moving to an apartment with very minimal storage space requires all those hidden items we had in closets and the garage to be exposed. Thanks for this challenge, Cait! I think this also may be an ongoing process for us!

    • It’s so awesome your fiance is on board, Alyssa! Take that phrase and momentum and run with it. :)

  • That’s awesome! I hate clutter. I just recently took 2 huge bags to goodwill. I’ll be moving out of my apartment next year and I intend to chuck, sell, or give away a lot of stuff I don’t use. Definitely lowers my stress!

  • I’m a freelance sewist and costume designer/teacher and my house is one big collection of “I might use this in the future”
    The next 20 days I’m tackling the fabric collection. I’m with you!

    • That’s awesome, Hanne! I did a live Google Hangout last night and we actually talked about how big fabric collections can get! Good luck :)

  • I’m in. Actually, I was already in. On August 1, I mapped out a 4 1/2 week schedule on my big desk calendar: week 1 kitchen; week 2 living/dining rooms; week 3 library/guest room/office; week 4 (and the extra half-week) bedroom and all of the closets.

    I am trying to do this every year; last year was devoted to the garage and outdoor spaces and getting rid of big items (like an unused lawnmower). I find it works best if I get rid of stuff as I go (books to library donation, clothes and kitchen items to thrift shop, etc.) rather than holding it to the end.

    The problem is the . . . Incoming!!!! Just when you think you’ve gotten to the end, here comes the UPS man with the Amazon boxes. So next up has to be the shopping ban.

    • Yes! The two combined will help you keep a clutter-free and happy home, Jill. Good luck with your 4.5 week challenge!

  • I enjoy reading about your journey. I admire your minimalistic approach to your home decor, but I can’t live happily quite so plainly. That said, I used to have layers and layers of decorative items, books, clothing, shoes and so much more. I spent the first half of my life acquiring things, likely to make up for the lack of some basic things in my childhood.
    I am in the second half of my life and have sold/donated many, many items. I now have a single layer of things that bring me joy.

  • I love this challenge! I have been feeling a bit overwhelmed with my stuff lately and I think doing a bit of a purge and de-clutter would be a great way to get back on track. My biggest problem is that I always worry that I’ll miss what I get rid of, and then need to buy something again that I already had once. I think I need to let that go, though, because its maybe happened twice in my life!

    • I purged 30% of my stuff back in February, right after I had read the Konmari book. In that time, I’ve regretted giving away exactly one item, and I was able to easily acquire it for <$10 at Bed, Bath, & Beyond (it was a cheese grater, btw). I think I've gained more than $10 worth of peace from having less crap in my small apartment. I've recently gone back and purged another 10% or so, and am even considering going through again!

    • The Minimalists also have a great idea to help you push past that problem: if it costs less than $20 and you can buy it somewhere within 20 minutes from your home, let it go. It’s highly unlikely you’ll miss anything, Ali – especially if you’re honest with yourself about when you last used it/if you even WANT to use it one day. Don’t think too hard… just let it go. :)

  • I’m in! I’m already a minimalist but I could always do another once over. I probably still have too much in the kitchen, so I’ll start there!

  • I read all your posts and want to give up everything! Then I head over to some shelf and start putting things in bags and my kids start losing it. :) So, I’m working on downsizing slowly while having everyone on board. Rough time. Be grateful you’re a minimalist now because I think it’s so much harder to move in that direction married with children. (“I LOVE that stress ball pig with the ears ripped off!”)

    • Hahaha… yes, it’s not easy with kids around. The only trick I know about how to deal with kids + clutter is to bag things up when they aren’t at home and put them in a closet. If they don’t remember the item even exists for a month, donate it. They’ll never know the difference.

  • I have started de-cluttering out house over the past few weeks. My problem lies in that now I have sorted boxes “to go” sitting in my basement, but for some reason, I just never find the time to get rid of them. I have a box of random kitchen stuff that can obviously be donated to the salvation army, I am just horrible at finding time to get them there. How do you get rid of your stuff?

    • Honestly, I just made the time. I woke up one weekend morning, and just started making multiple trips down to my car (which took forever, because I was living on the 22nd floor of a condo building). The minute my car was full, I just drove over to Value Village and dropped it all off. Done and done. It won’t happen unless you make the time. :)

  • I’m in, Cait. I’m in.

    When I bought a house, a funny thing happened. My parents gifted me with some boxes that I completely forgot. They didn’t do this when I got married. Or when I got my first apartment. There’s something about a new house that says, “From my attic to yours – HERE’S YOUR JUNK!”

    I had left the boxes in my childhood closet five years before when I moved across the country. I didn’t miss any of the items. I didn’t even realize that I had left them behind. Oh, I knew that I had all my journals from 3rd grade on (Thank you, Anne Frank), but I didn’t ever really THINK about them. Now I have a pile of Pandora’s Boxes in my garage and guest room, ready to be sorted and taken care of before the baby comes in 6-ish weeks.

    • I thought I was the only one whose parents did that to her! My mother kept asking me to come get “my stuff”; I kept procrastinating. The next thing I knew, UPS delivered a considerable number of boxes to my front door . . . Mom was never one to mess around.

    • Ha, I’m grateful my parents haven’t done that (yet) although I think they only kept 1-2 small boxes for each of us up in the attack, so there shouldn’t be much to go through (when that time comes). Good luck!

      • The good news is…the guest room is now actually a room. With a bed. And a dresser. And a clear floor. AND I found an unexpired $50 gift card in my paper pile. Wahoo!

        The bad news is…my boxes of things to give away are now in the hallway! Progress has been made!

        The moral of the story – if your parents give you boxes and boxes of “stuff” – don’t open it. Or have someone else open it and sort it.

  • Fantastic! I’ve recently been passing along all of our baby gear (my youngest is now 2, and we’re done with it). It’s amazing to me, that even though we bought very little baby stuff, I still have lots of things I’ve never used, and many things I used because they were there (generous family and friends gave our little ones all sorts of things), but could have happily done without.

    • It’s always an interesting experiment, and can be extremely eye-opening, indeed. It’s nice that people give us things and want to help, but it can also be sad to see how little of it you actually needed… food for thought, I guess.

  • These posts have been so inspiring. As much as I dread moving, I think it’s a great time to reevaluate what we really need. I try to keep my basement clear of clutter that way – if it hasn’t seen the light of day in a few months, out it goes!

    • Awesome! Basements are notorious for being filled with clutter. Great you try to dispel that in your home!

  • I moved from the east coast to the west coast two years ago, and got rid of most of what I had before I moved. The rest is in 5 large plastic bins in an attic in Maine…no furniture, no dishes, no towels..just treasures. I just moved into a 300 square foot apartment, gathered together donated furniture, took one trip to Ikea, and I have everything I need…and now I have to decide if I want those bins…because I have no idea what is in them.
    30 years ago I read a book called Simplify Your Life, and it totally changed mine. I am so happy to know that there are more and more people out there who are paring down to just the essentials…life is so much easier. My family thinks I am peculiar for the way I live…Good for you.

    • “Life is so much easier.” I don’t know how else to reply to this comment other than to quote what you’ve just said and add YES! I have a few sentimental things (like yearbooks) I know I will keep for some time… but besides those few things, I want nothing more than the essentials in my home. (Also, this book sounds like a good read! I wonder if I can find it somewhere…)

      • You could buy it on Amazon! Oh, wait . . .

        Seriously, you could probably get it at a library. It was written by Elaine St. James and first published in the early 1990s, but has been republished many times since. Was a seminal book in the simplicity (minimalism) movement. One of her key insights (at least for me) was to have only one of a key tool (scissors, emery board, etc.); if you have more than one, you can never find it, but if you only have one, you always know where it is.

  • Oh I love this, I love decluttering!! The biggest decluttered I’ve done have been when moving house. I convinced my ex to agree to a skip at each house & we filled both small skips!! Now I’m focusing on my stuff before potentially moving next year! Id love to leave with only a few boxes x Recently I donated 30 books that I thought I’d read over the last 2 years & I haven’t. & notebooks, I donated 20 really pretty notebooks that’d take me about 10 years to fill up. I’ve actually still kept about 20 because I’ve already started using them but… It does seem a tad excessive! Who needs 20 notepads when I mostly use my phone for notes now anyway!!!
    I’m really looking forward to seeing your journey in pictures!! I loved seeing your condo which was beautiful!!!xx

    • Aww, I wish you’d sent those notebooks over here, hehe – I’m running low, down to just 2! Teasing, of course, as I’m sure they went to good homes. :) Is there anything you want to tackle next, Fiona?

  • Hi Cait!

    I accept your challenge. I’m selling my home in Atlanta and feel this is the perfect time to declutter/downsize.

    One question though–my parents have downsized as well and given me a lot of my childhood memories/tokens that I was previously keeping at their house. I want to be minimalist, but some of these I’d like to keep for my children, although they are taking up space. Do you have any tips for tackling the items that don’t fit for me right now, but that I may want to hold on to for later?

    • I think it’s still important to go through those boxes and ask yourself which items you want to keep. For example, if you can’t remember why you’re keeping it (what memory/attachment you have to it) then maybe you can let it go. Then I’d suggest trying to fit everything you want to keep in one plastic tote (plastic so it can’t be damaged in the event of a flood). All my yearbooks, pictures, etc. will go into one clear plastic tote and sit at the bottom of my closet. It’s not a perfect solution, but only having one container to store it all has always forced me to be mindful about what I’m holding onto.

  • The problem with this is that you don’t NEED the things that make your home beautiful, but they are also what makes it a home. I understand no clutter, but you don’t want to live in a bare bones hotel room either! Go gently.

    • Sure, but I think it’s safe to say that everyone’s definition is a bit different. In my eyes, if it doesn’t add value to my life, and I’m always just cleaning dust off of it, it’s not important enough to keep.

  • Love this! We recently moved so I was forced to declutter a LOT. I was shocked that I had hoarded so many clothes over the years and gave away bags and bags. Now I have just a few basics, and while I’ll likely need to pick up a few new items just to update my wardrobe, I’m going to try and keep it minimal. Great condo, btw!

    • Sounds like you’ve done a great job creating the perfect-size wardrobe for you, Pira! And thanks… I miss that place sometimes. :)

  • I’m preparing to do this as well. I just moved to a much smaller apartment, and I’ve unpacked the bulk of my items, save about eight “wtf boxes” as I like to call them (mostly because you open them, say “what the f* is in here?!” And close them again.

    My goal is to purge the bulk of the items found in those boxes- and take back some of my space!

  • I like this idea in theory, but I’ve noticed in starting to de-clutter my life I am so attached to everything I own. I’ve always been one of those people that over-pack for a weekend vacation, and become so indecisive about outfits that I just dump my entire drawer into a suitcase–always thinking in the ‘what if’ situation.

    I just recently got rid off 55 Items of Clothing, which is a lot. However, I still have about 40 Button Downs, 15 pairs of Pants, 30 Sweatshirts, 25 T-Shirts, 15 Long-Sleeve Shirts etc. etc.

    Definitely a beginner minimalist in training! I love your blog, and you inspire me each day to let go a little more :) It’s definitely a refreshing process! Thanks Cait!

    • Sounds like you could go 50-60 days without doing laundry, hehe. I referenced it above, but there’s a rule the Minimalists have for “what if” items: if you can buy it for $20 or less and within 20 minutes of your home, let it go. Just something to think about as you continue on your journey, Matt! :)

  • OMG, this is such a great idea! We’re in the middle of moving across the country and I’ve been overwhelmed by the amount of stuff we have in our closets and drawers. We had a big moving sale (made $250!) but it barely made a dent in what we own. I was feeling very discouraged. But now I’m going to take this as a challenge and start boxing up everything and see if we really need to haul it across the U.S. Thanks for the idea and constant motivation! <3

    • WOOP to the $250! That’s a nice little chunk of change. But yes, I can’t wait to hear where you’re at at the end of this challenge. :)

  • Lovely idea!

    … for us it´s not working for many years…

    But I do have decluttered a bookshelf , sold it and gave away 3 bags of books. That felt good!

    Next is the younger sons toys… that´s a problem too… they don´t what to sell, give away and they don´t play with them.

    How do I tackle the sons toys, anyone got an idea !?

    • Carina, try letting them pick a specific number of toys (like 10 each) boxing up the rest ‘temporarily’ and putting it up in the attic or closet. Maybe each week/month, swap out what they have out for what is in a box (again only 10). If they don’t open a box or ask for something in particular, in a few months (or whatever time frame you choose), then donate it. Usually, they don’t even miss what is in the boxes.

  • Having moved 8 times in 30 years, I’m relatively decluttered… although I continue removing books, badly-worn clothing, and other items throughout the year. Retirement with no pension keeps me from being a ‘consumer’.
    However… I am a genealogy enthusiast (teach, consult, work on my own and branches of my families’ trees) – which generates a fair amount of paper in folders. Much is necessary for further research purposes. Sigh. But also, I am a romance writer (three books being polished as I write this), and there are folders of ideas, drafts, chapters I’m working on or will be “soon”, research items… also in folders.
    So, first off, I’m going to be deciding what truly NEEDS to be kept on paper. Some items can be scanned onto my computer and accessed there with good tagging/labeling. I re-use paper all the time, so that helps with the no-shopping for office supplies.
    I’m giving myself to the end of August for the bottom desk drawer with all those papers!
    After that, the 2nd desk drawer of office supplies, chargers, etc. should only take a day.
    Ditto for the top drawer – my wonderful batch of coloured inks and fountain pens, ballpoint/gel pens, and other oddities – another day.
    That means in September, I can tackle the filing cabinet in my bedroom which doubles as my bedside table (under a beautiful piece of cloth I couldn’t throw away). Two drawers about 2/3rds full.
    By the way, I have a daughter who’s lived in/around Victoria for almost 20 years and loves it, and two friends who also love the history, pace, food markets, and more.
    Cheers from Vancouver.

    • Ahhh, hello to you in Vancouver, Celia! That one drawer sounds like a great project for the next couple of weeks. Good luck with it – and then onto the next!

  • Thanks for the motivational post! I started decluttering over the past few months after finding your blog and being spurred into action by some of your earlier posts! After a major life transition and move, my decluttering has been done in conjunction with me “getting to know myself” and figuring out what I what in life. The things that I have kept are what I will truly use, and that reflect who I am — in the present. Six bags of garbage and five bags to donation so far…..there is still more that I can work through but I’m pretty happy with the progress to date, and my place is looking quite a lot bigger too :)

    • Sounds like a very constructive way to work through a big life transition, RM3. 11 bags out the door will give you just as much capacity to figure out what you really want in life, for sure. :)

  • I’m in! I’ve been avoiding our study, and this is the motivation I needed to tackle it! I’m slowly reducing what we have, but would love to do much more. The sense of empowerment from choosing to live a minimalist lifestyle has been a very welcome gift.

  • I would take that challenge. Two years ago,I was swearing I could not possibly live in anything smaller than 1000 square feet… Until we needed a temporary place for 9 weeks that has turned into a year, and it’s 700 square feet. We love our little home. I love that I have touched and used everything that we have here.

    My big challenge is computer cables and cords. I’m afraid to let go of things for fear I give away something I need. But I think the box method might be a good way to go. One of my strange challenges is that I have a special medical device, so I have kept all the paperwork and the old versions of all my device so I have a backup device. Getting rid of anything device related is scary!

    I do like to keep a few once a year things, though, like my punch bowl for the annual Christmas party brunch or the Christmas decorations. They don’t feel like they take up too much space.

    • I have a medical device too. The company likely has a website and/or toll-free call number for any answers you would find in a manual. My company even provides “loaners” for emergency situations. Your doctor might have other suggestions. I’d rather not have the huge box in my bathroom of prescriptions but they do get used, so they are consumables!

    • 700 square feet seems like the perfect size, Elizabeth! My last condo was 650, and it was more than enough space for me. If it had been configured differently and had a second bedroom, it could be great for any couple or small family. Anyway, I’m glad to hear you’re happy in your home, and look forward to hearing what you do by the end of this month!

  • While I would love to just tackle it all in a matter of days, I’m finding the slow approach is working for me.
    We finally agreed on what to use the extra bedroom in our house for, so now we can tackle those last yet-to-be-unpacked boxes. I already brought a trunk-full of things to donate a few weeks back, and have another pile on the go. And these are only the things that are absolute “no”s… there’s still that massive “maybe” pile.

    • The “maybe” pile is so dangerous… If you don’t get rid of it, you’ll probably just put it in a box, put it in a closet and pretend it’s not there – but it will still be there the next time you need to move or want to declutter! If you haven’t touched that stuff in the next couple of weeks, I’d turn the maybe’s into no’s. :)

  • It’s hard to declutter/get rid of extra stuff when you live with other people that love their stuff! My husband thinks I am crazy because I always want to own “less”, and my 5 year old wants to keep EVERYTHING (They are treasures….yeah…). On the plus side, my 3 year old could not care less about stuff. I hope it stays that way! So I do what I can to minimize what is coming into the house and to get rid of unused stuff (giving it). If it was just me, I would be living very minimalist, I don’t own much.

    • There are some suggestions above on how to deal with other people, especially kids. It does seem like starting small is the only way to ease into it, when you have to consider others. Good luck, Isabelle!

  • I’m up for the challenge! Thank you for another inspiring post. I’ve made great progress with my clothing/closet and books/magazines but paper is where I struggle to let go. I commit to decluttering my paper as well as 2 empty rooms in my home that are my dumping grounds for decluttering projects.

    • Awesome! Paper is HUGE, Megan. I didn’t think I had a lot, when I did this last summer… but I was able to get rid of an entire drawer full of paperwork, and it felt incredible – like a huge weight had been lifted. Paperwork holds us down almost more than anything else, because it “seems” important… but there’s a good chance you’ll never need it! Scan the important stuff, store it in the cloud and shred it up. Good luck!

  • I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently. At the beginning of May, my boyfriend and I packed most of our belongings in his truck and he drove from Colorado to Alaska. I packed the rest of what we owned into my little Toyota Corolla and joined him a couple months later. In the last month and a half that I’ve been here I’ve had to move three times. So for this most recent move, I plan to do the same as you – just take out what I use and get rid of the rest as it feels right. It seems strange that I carted some of this stuff 4,000 miles and don’t even use a bunch of it! I’m excited to follow along with your challenge and see how you like it.

    • It’s not strange… it felt important in one home, so you think it would be important in any future home, but that’s just turned out to be untrue. At least you didn’t spend $$$$ to ship it up, right? :)

  • Hi Cait,

    Interesting reading in your blog today. But I’m a tad confused here so, friend, just to try to “unconfoose me”, permit me please to play “devil’s advocate” on this de-cluttering theme, ok? Previously I could well understand, appreciate, and fully agree with your reasons for de-cluttering since I’ve been on the same kick myself off and on for awhile now. But I’m starting to wonder as to reasons for you continuing it.

    You tell us:
    “I’ve already gotten rid of 70% of my belongings, and I honestly thought I couldn’t get rid of anything more… but I can’t remember what’s in half of those boxes. So, I think it’s time for one final decluttering challenge”

    So I ask simply: why? I doubt that it’ll increase your net worth much, if at all. Some of it might be donated to charity but, hey, me-thinks you’ve donated a lot of stuff already to worthy causes. As well, I don’t think that “8 small boxes” are taking up a lot of space to trip over or otherwise get in anyone’s way. You mention that you can’t remember what’s in half of those boxes. Writing the contents list on each box solves that concern. Neither do I think that 8 small boxes (or not) very much impacts the cost of moving your stuff to your new digs. You mention that you can probably get by with hardly ever needing to touch anything in those boxes. Maybe so but I know (from past – sad – experience) that after disposing of something, as sure as God made little green apples, I was hunting around looking for one of those discard items (which I just had to use)! :-)

    Now, don’t get me wrong here. I’m not knocking you on this decision as everyone should live their life in their own comfortable way. I’m just wondering though as to how far does one take this de-cluttering theme. You’re at 70%. Do you try for 75%, for 80?, even higher? To what good purpose? Just to see if one can? Or am I’m missing your message here. When does one “call it a day”?

    Hey, it’s a slow day here in TO so I thought I’d stir things up a tad for you! :-)

    • Hey Rob!
      I can’t speak for Cait, only for myself: when I find more stuff to get rid of I kind of get a little “high” of it. And an empty space makes me feel better, mentally and physically, like I can breathe better, deeper. And a sense of calm sets in. So I guess that, for myself, it is some sort of an addiction, a reaction in my brain, that makes me want to have less and less. Anyone relating to this?

      • Hi Isabelle,
        Yep I can confess to feeling the decluttering high as well. In a month’s time I will have been decluttering for a year – I’ve decided that for me that will be enough, anything beyond that and I think I’ll just be getting rid of things that I still value, but am really just getting rid of for that ‘high’ you mentioned. We’re all in different situations I suppose. But I think Rob has raised some good points.

      • That’s certainly part of it, Isabelle – but I don’t know if I experience the high, as much as I just like to get the “weight off” when I feel like I have too much clutter lying around. If looking at something makes me feel bad in any way (like I feel guilty I haven’t read the book yet, mad the shirt doesn’t fit anymore or I don’t feel good in it, etc.) then it’s time to let it go. So, essentially, I’m constantly trying to remove any negative feelings I might have about my belongings, so I can just enjoy my space!

    • Nope, it’s not a numbers game. The move just showed me that what was important in one home might not be important in another. I thought I had done a great job of getting rid of anything I didn’t use often/truly love at my last place, but the fact that I’ve lived here for a month now and still haven’t touched (nor can I even remember what’s inside) 8 boxes worth of stuff shows that I am still holding onto things I don’t need… and it just doesn’t feel good. It adds an extra weight to my day, every time I see those boxes. So, I just want to unpack them and figure out what I actually want to keep, so I can get rid of the rest and remove that unnecessary weight from my shoulders. It’s hard to explain, until you get to this point, but holding onto anything that isn’t useful just feels like a waste of energy.

  • Since I caught the de-cluttering bug from you about a month ago, I’ve been making good progress in my office at work, my closet, our bookshelves and our bathroom. So much so that my boss asked me if there was something I needed to tell her (i.e., was I quitting my job). And my husband has noticed and is mostly grateful (because I’m a slob and he’s tidier than I am). But we’ve also had some interesting (and sometimes slightly uncomfortable) conversations because we have very different approaches to stuff. And I think those differences come from our childhoods.

    I grew up in a home where we always had enough money – more than enough. We weren’t taking super-expensive vacations or spending oodles of money on clothes, but it never entered my mind that there wouldn’t be enough money for everything we needed, and even (within reason) everything we wanted.

    My husband, however, grew up in a single parent family where sometimes there was enough money – and sometimes there wasn’t. His mother grew up on a farm at the end of the Depression – and then in a single parent household after her father died in WWII.

    How does this translate into how we deal with stuff? For me, it has always been easy come – easy go. I spend easily and get rid of stuff easily. My husband acquires much less but is reluctant to let things go in case he needs it again. Coming from a place of financial security, I feel that I can always acquire something if I need it – so I don’t need to hang onto it. My husband moved a half-eaten single serving bag of pistachio nuts 4,000 miles (among many other things, including his phone bills from 1983) – because he might need those nuts some day. Actually, he put those pistachio nuts in storage for six months before moving them. But I digress.

    The point I’m trying to get to is that although I believe that living with less stuff is a great idea (and I’m working on it), I can afford to be minimalist – and not everyone can. Some people hold onto things they rarely use (or haven’t used yet) because they are worried that they will need that thing in the future and can’t afford to re-acquire it.

    I’m grateful for the choices I can make, and I’m going to try not to judge the emotional attachments that others have to their stuff.

    … but I’m still going to sneak out of the apartment all but a dozen of the elastic bands we’ve been “saving” for a binding emergency in a giant elastic band jar in the kitchen.

    • Interesting point! I definitely agree with you that having lived with financial insecurity makes a person have much more of a “just in case” mindset. My in-laws were perfect examples of that. Depression-era coupled with being lifelong farmers (meaning their income could be spoiled by a bad storm or other bad luck) meant that they kept And in a lot of ways, I totally get it. In many aspects of their lives, they were being prudent, resourceful people who were good stewards of what they had and did not waste things. In other ways, they just flat out hung on to way too much stuff “just in case.” I think it’s sometimes hard to draw that line. Great insight! (And I like that we have the same initials!)

    • Thank you so much for sharing your experiences here, JH – again, a conversation I would love to have over coffee! Your points make perfect sense to me. Although, in the past (when I was debt-ridden) I might’ve held onto my belongings more, I’m obviously in a better position now… and I’ve never really thought about how that would affect my feelings about stuff. One thing I will add, though, is that I also spend less each month than I ever used to… so I wonder how being frugal affects our ability to also be minimalists? You might think I’d be “cheap” and want to hold onto anything, vs. risk having to spend money on it again… but really, I just don’t want these things at all. I think I’m rambling now. But you’ve got me thinking. :)

  • Cait you should see the amount of stuff I’ve gotten rid of. I’m almost through the discarding phase of my “discard and rearrange” experiment and I definitely have less than half of what I used to have, and I’ve never owned a lot.

    It feels *great*, but the big surprise has been how little this feeling has to do with having less stuff. It has much more to do with letting go of what some of these things represent: old relationships, hobbies I don’t take seriously, goals that aren’t important anymore, burdens I don’t want to carry anymore. Hard decluttering is almost a spiritual exercise. I will have a lot to say about it when I’m done.

    • David, I really like your post, and relate with the “letting go” portion. It’s almost as good as therapy! ;-)

    • I replied to this via text message already, but will just say (so all readers know) that I’m enjoying following your experiment and can’t wait to read the recap at the end! My readers know I experienced the same thing back in February, when I finally let go of all the books, hobbies and projects I *thought* I should do, and finally just accepted who I am. It feels incredible to walk into a space that is a true reflection of who you are. Happy you’re experiencing this, friend! <3

  • I just saw on twitter that someone wrote a nasty comment about your decluttering. I think I can say on behalf of many, many people that your decluttering process, actually your blog in general, is such a positive space and is a huge inspiration. You are honest, thoughtful and helping people improve their life in a huge way. So I just wanted to tell you, so now instead of thinking of that mean comment, you can think of this one instead! xxx

    • Aww, you’re so sweet to come and leave this comment, Lauren! I appreciate it, and thank you for all of your kind words here. The comment didn’t really hurt, it was just more of a surprise than anything. Who knew you could even say something bad about decluttering!? (Those trolls are tricky ricky, I tell ya.) Onward and upward, I say. There is so much more good to be done (and crap to get rid of, hehe). xxx right back at you :)

  • Yay, a decluttering challenge!!! I’ve been consciously decluttering for 11 months now, one month to go before I have decided I won’t be analysing any more of my possessions to see if they stay or not. Then I’ll just go into 1-in-1-out maintenance mode. But it is great, and a great coincidence, to get the motivation of your challenge right near the end of my decluttering year. Thanks!

  • Cait, I’m accepting your challenge! I’ve never thought about decluttering in this way. It’s ironic because boxes and moving are both very familiar concepts to college students, yet after college… well, we forget :) Thank you for another wonderful post!

    • Thank you for accepting the challenge! Can’t wait to hear what you tackle, at the end of the month. :)

  • Just gave away all my “thin” clothes. This a clutter trap many of us set for ourselves. If I lose weight, I’ll just buy the clothes I need rather than hang onto an entire wardrobe from my early 20s!

    • YES! That was a big one for me too, JJ (although I did keep one pair of jeans that I can fit into if I lose about 5 lbs.). But there was a dress I hadn’t worn for 7 YEARS. I loved it, but it also carried some bad memories with it… why hold onto that!? If I lose the weight, I think I deserve a new black dress. Same goes for you!

  • I am starting to feel the pinch of too much stuff and and slowly making my way through each room in my house. I’m the sentimental kind, so some of the stuff is hard for me to part, but I guess I’ll tackle that stuff on my next go ’round. I just went through my closet through, and made the conscious decision that once it’s in the bag to be donated I’m not allowed to touch it again (I’m go for putting something in the donate pile, then I’ll want to touch everything one last time, and half of it ends up back in the closet). I dropped that stuff off at Goodwill yesterday, and today, I couldn’t tell you 99% of the things that were in those bags!

    I’ve contemplated boxing everything up like Ryan did and just pulling out the things I need, as I need them, but I’ve got so much stuff right now, the boxing it up part gives me anxiety just thinking baout how long that’ll take!

    • I can understand that… I’m a little anxious about having to open all of the boxes open and deal with whatever it is inside! But I do like the idea of tackling them once and for all, and just being done with this – so, that’s what I’m going to do. One final swoop + these boxes, and then my home needs to ONLY be filled with things that represent me today. Good luck to us both, Cedes!

  • For six years I kept moving the same boxes and never unpacked them. When my mom helped me move the last time, she said to just thrown the boxes away because I obviously didn’t need whatever was in them! This past week I had to move everything from the living/dining/kitchen because I am having the floors replaced–and when I think I have cleared a bunch of stuff out, I realize that I have not even scratched the surface! I definitely admire your strive for minimalism… :)

    • Yes! Ugh, I feel like you’re talking about my life, haha. I moved 5 times in 2013, and barely got rid of anything that year… I just picked up 20+ boxes and brought them from place-to-place-to-place. Anyway, I’m sure you won’t be moving again anytime soon, but don’t let that stop you from going through the areas of your home that feel a little too full and seeing what you could clear it. It’s incredible how the extra space helps you love your home just a little bit more. :)

  • I love your post. I decluttered a few boxes in my basement which were still packed from my move last year. Got rid of lots of stuff, would have liked to discard more but I just wasn’t ready yet lol Right now I am on vacation in Northern Germany and we are staying in a one-bedroom condo with a small kitchen aisle. I love it! We have everything we need and living the simple life. Just perfect. Decluttering my apartement will be too much for now but my kitchen really needs a makeover and serious decluttering when I get back. Who needs 8 pans or about 30 knives/forks/spoons? No one.

  • It’s pretty mindblowing that you haven’t opened those boxes, given that you had already pared back so dramatically. Proves once again that everything is relative! To the rest of us, you already seem like a pretty serious minimalist, but there’s still room to downsize. (That makes us total maximalists by comparison — but again, relative! We have far less space and stuff than the “average” household!) We have some decluttering on our list, though it’s honestly a pretty regular process for us, but it hasn’t been the priority recently. We’ll try to fit some in and tag you during this challenge period! ;-)

    • Woo hoo! Yes, please do tag me, if you tackle something in the next couple of weeks! I’m going to open those boxes tomorrow, and I’m terrified! (Ok, not really… as time has gone on, I think I remember what most of it is, haha.) But I have decided this is the last declutter I’m going to do! As of September 1st, I have to be done, and my home has to be a direct reflection of who I am today and what I love most. :)

  • That sounds awesome! It is great that you have been able to get rid of so many things, and your new place looks great. Your minimalism posts are always an inspiration. :)

    I go through my belongings every few months and do a purge, but as much as I admire minimalism, I think crafting will keep me from ever truly reaching that point. LOL

    My craft supplies are organized, and do get used frequently (I’ve gotten pretty good at not buying anything I don’t intend to immediately use), but they do take up space…. a dresser for the yarn, a medium-size Rubbermaid bin for the fabric, the sewing machine on a shelf, the tin of markers/pencil crayons/dip pens,/etc on my desk, and another bin of “less frequently used but would be expensive to replace” supplies.

    There is always the pull…I’d like to own less, but it doesn’t make sense to get rid of tools for a hobby I love. I think I could reduce the fabric to a smaller bin, though…I just need to let go of the remnants from past projects. ;)

    • Letting go of past projects can be tough, but I promise it will free up some of the mental clutter you may not even know exists! I’ve found I’m much more creative now that I don’t have so many “I should do this…” things lying around. :)

  • Great post, Cait. I’ve been on a decluttering/life simplifying journey since last winter and it is staggering how much stuff my husband and I have gotten rid of. Our home feels so much lighter now, it’s like I can literally feel positive energy and movement in our space – which had been previously stifled by stuff! I have a totally commitment free weekend ahead (really rare for me), so I’m going to use it to do a final end of summer sweep of the house and see if there’s anything else that needs to go. At first it felt so scary to get rid of things, but now it feels liberating. And it’s interesting that we’ve also been doing a lot of rearranging of furniture and moving around the decorative items we’ve chosen to keep. Just moving a piece of art into a different room can really have an impact and help you to see it in a new way. Redecorating with the stuff you already have is fun and extremely frugal :)

    • Ahhh, even *I* felt lighter reading this post, Devan. It sounds like you guys have made serious progress, and are at the end of your journey now! Can’t wait to hear how things go this weekend. You’re in the home stretch… and then you’ll just be “home”. :)

  • While I’ll never be a minimalist, I do enjoy a good decluttering! I’ve bought too many “things” over the years and so many just collect dust. I do a big clean twice a year where I go through everything and decide what I can get rid of, on top of the monthly mini decluttering. I’ve also cut my discretionary spending by about 90% since the beginning of the year which helps immensely. To keep myself from buying “stuff” that just takes up space, I’ve implemented a 1 in – 2 out rule. For every 1 item I bring in I must get ride of 2 items I currently own. There are certain things I won’t get rid of because they are family heirlooms so I don’t count those in my 1 in – 2 out rule. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Ooo, I know about 1-in-1-out, but 2-out is fantastic, Kristal! I might have to adopt that sometime (when I’m allowed to shop again lol).

      • I used to abide by the 1 in 1 out rule but it didn’t help with reducing the amount of “stuff” I own which is the real challenge. So I decided to challenge myself to make it a 1 in 2 out process. To be honest, I could probably even extend it to a 1 in 3 out policy, but baby steps! lol

  • It is surprising how much we think we need something to full fill our lives when really we don’t need any of it. I am currently doing a similar thing in the month of August but not so much wanting to be a minimalist but just wanting to declutter my home. I got the idea after reading the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and by Marie Kondo (Author), have you read her book? She believes that everything you posses in your home should bring you joy and if it doesn’t then you don’t need it. So far my journey on decluttering has been successful. Thanks for amazing posts and inspiration, I am regular reader of yours.

    • Yes, I have! And I gave a couple copies away – it’s a great read! (I read it AFTER my big declutter, but it would’ve helped if I’d read it before, haha.) Glad you enjoyed it and are finding a little extra inspiration here. :)

  • I am always looking for stuff to get rid of. However I purged a lot when I moved across country. We left most of everything behind. Lived the first 6 months in a semi furnished apartment with just the bare essentials bought. The next move we acquired the previous owners entire condo contents (except for the few items they wanted to keep when they moved out of province).
    Recently packing and moving again across the province I only had 1 box of stuff to donate. I have taken time to organize some of our stuff (bathroom, kitchen, cat toys, etc.) and will continue to do that. I am sure we have multiples of the same screwdriver. I may find another box of stuff to get rid of. Before the move I made an effort to use up all those little bits of toiletries. The travel toothpastes, the multiple deodorants (house, swim bag, travel kit), face wash samples, lotions and body washes that I don’t normally use but were given as gifts or left behind by guests.
    The one thing I was able to purge a lot of was paperwork and documents. It was hard to decide to get rid of a lot of paperwork and documents. I am pretty sure I halved all the paperwork I had been storing. It all fits neatly in one file box now. I don’t need to keep my prescription receipts or years worth of dental receipts.

    I won’t be able to partake of this challenge since most of my belongings will be sitting in storage until I find a place to live.

  • I suggested the box idea to the wife and well it didn’t go over well. She did however tell me she liked the declutter part and even gave me an assignment in the house to do so with, I’m sure I can get it done in 20 days but just to be sure I’m going to put the time limit on it anyway.

  • I am a newer reader to your blog. Can you explain how you specifically calculated the percentage of stuff you got rid of versus kept. Did you actually go through and count each and every item that you owned?

  • Good luck with yet another challenge, Cait! :)

    When my partner and I moved into our new flat a few months ago, I went through all of our stuff and got rid of everything that neither of us needed any longer. I donated most of our clothes and tossed everything else. All of our stuff fitted into 5 huge and 4 small boxes + TV set, vacuum cleaner and a few kitchen appliances, like a kettle and a toaster. It does feel great to know exactly what things you own and where they are when you need them!

  • Hi Cait – VERY inspiring! I’m actually living out of one overnight bag and 3 large trash bags (which I’ll be going through soon) as I’ve relocated for work and I’m currently staying with family, essentially renting one room. I’ll be pairing down even more. It’s very freeing.

  • I’m unintentionally doing something similar. We thought we were going to move so I packed up a lot of our non-everyday things, butended up not moving. There is still a pile of unpacked boxes 2 months later. I also took a bunch of clothes to the laundromat and then put them in a suitcase that’s been on my bedroom floor unopened for about a month. Hoping to take the next month to go through and get rid of a majority.

  • Although we have been living with minimal possessions for the past several years, I am doing a major Marie Kondo declutter this month! 788 square feet and I’ve already cleared out six garbage bags worth of clutter! Who knew it could be hidden so well?!

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